Italy's Euro 2012 qualifier against Serbia in Genoa was abandoned after seven minutes when the away support threw flares on to the pitch and into the home supporters' section.
Serbian supporters had fought with police outside the stadium, with a number of arrests made and at least 15 supporters injured. Some even attacked their own team's bus, leading the goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic to withdraw from the game after he was reportedly struck by a firework.
Inside the stadium the kick-off had to be delayed by nearly 40 minutes after a group of Serbia fans threw objects on to the pitch and attempted to break down barriers between them and the pitch. They also unfurled a banner reading "Kosovo is Serbia".
Despite this the kick-off eventually went ahead. Serbia's players had gone over to the away section to plead with the troublemakers as police attempted to move into the away section to subdue the troublemakers and a short silence was observed in memory of four Italian soldiers killed in Afghanistan on Saturday.
Within minutes, however, flares were thrown on to the pitch, more than one landing near the Italy goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano, as well as into the home supporters' enclosure. At that point the Scottish referee, Craig Thomson, ruled that the game could not continue as he could not guarantee the safety of the players.
After a prolonged discussion the players left the pitch. Official confirmation that the game had been called off soon followed.
The Italy coach, Cesare Prandelli, was quick to confirm the game was off, saying he had "never seen anything like it" and Viviano agreed that the game could never have gone ahead in such conditions.
"It was impossible to play in that goal," said Viviano afterwards. "I would have had to stand with my back to the game so I could avoid the flares. I wouldn't have wanted to take one to the head. [The Serbia midfielder] Dejan [Stankovic] was crying with sadness."
The rioting was described as a national disgrace for Serbia and immediate government action was called for by the Serbian Football Association.
"The whole of Europe saw the disgrace and shame brought upon Serbia by fans who have kept us under siege in our hotel for two days," the president of the visitors' governing body, Tomislav Karadzic, said after the match had been abandoned.
"We had information these fans would come here with the intention to force the game to be abandoned and we notified the Italian authorities. It's up to the Serbian government now to launch a swift investigation and establish who recruited these young men to come here and riot because this is an act of aggression which goes beyond football."
The rampage in Genoa was foreshadowed by an apparently co-ordinated campaign against a single player, Stojkovic. The former Red Star goalkeeper has been targeted by that club's fans since he joined their city rivals Partizan on loan from Sporting Lisbon in August. According to reports, fans printed fake obituaries, made obscene phone calls to him and produced insulting banners. On Friday they jeered every time he touched the ball during Serbia's 3-1 home defeat by Estonia.
Yesterday, an hour before Serbia's match with Italy was due to kick off, reports said several fans stormed the team bus with burning flares. According to Serbian media, only a swift reaction by Stojkovic's team-mates prevented a serious assault.
"It's a great disappointment, there's great bitterness," Prandelli later said. The ground was full of children with so much enthusiasm."
The Italy coach also added that a visibly perplexed Stojkovic had been in the home dressing room before kick-off to explain his withdrawal and seek sanctuary. "According to the Serbians we have spoken to, the aim of the Serbian fans was to stop the match," he said.